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Awka
Saturday, January 28, 2023

Trumpet With Certain Sound

Day of Culture, Color, Conferment and Confusion

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Awka was agog this weekend as competing kingship coalitions, formed around the incumbent monarch and the insurgent, launched major cultural events on the same day, amid the watchful eyes of government security forces.

By Chudi Okoye

It was a day like no other in recent Awka history. A day of cultural extravaganza, with a bonanza of spectacle and splendor, orchestrated by the most meticulous organizers. It was a day of uncharacteristic grandeur and revelry for Awka, the capital of Anambra State, Nigeria.

Sadly, on this day of its cultural triumph, Awka also demonstrated a split personality.

Two competing cultural events were held simultaneously in Awka town on Saturday December 28, 2019. Given the current volatility of leadership politics in Awka, there might have been a major catastrophe as a result of the overlap. The contending coalitions in the long-running kingship tussle in Awka both decided to hold their end-of-year cultural events on the same day. The incumbent monarch of Awka, His Majesty Eze Uzu II Obi Gibson Nwosu, had scheduled his Egwu Uzu Festival to take place on this day. The insurgent claimant to the Awka kingship stool, Chief Austin Ndigwe (who goes by the title ‘His Imperial Majesty Eze Uzu III, Obi of Awka’), also scheduled on the same day an event – nascent in Awka cultural calendar – called Otochal Awka Day Celebration. It is unclear whether it was fortuity or artifice that led to the collision of schedules at such a volatile time of the year, in a politically combustible environment. It is also unclear who was the first to choose that date for his event, and who therefore might have been the (witting or unwitting) interloper.

In the run-up to this tumultuous day, the Anambra State government had seen fit to issue a security warning saying that it would not permit any conduct that threatened law and order in the state capital. It warned that the security agencies had been alerted and were empowered to deal with any assault to public peace.

The government’s trenchant warning itself seemed to raise the political temperature in Awka, weighing in unambiguously in favor of the incumbent and inveighing forcefully against the insurgency. Tensions were heightened with a clapback from the insurgency following government’s intervention. Spokesmen for the insurgent camp declared themselves unintimidated, and vowed that their scheduled event would proceed as planned.

And so it was with great uncertainty that the day dawned on December 28th, the anxiety unremitting as the day wore on. In the end, however, amid notable security deployment by the authorities, the day did pass off without any disturbance. Under the watchful eyes of government’s coercive personnel, Awka people celebrated their culture, with a parade of awesome and fearsome masquerades, a display of art and artefacts, a presentation of dances, the conferment of awards and titles, and rousing announcement of future monuments, all capped with the indulgence of extravagant merriment.

It all came off without apparent hitch. But underneath it all there was an unmistakable stitch. The drama of the overlapping events and the subterranean anxieties that attended them demonstrated in a most graphic manner the rising tension in Awka political society. The intersected crises of the Awka kingship institution, town union administration and cultural institutions appear to be approaching a boiling point. The contending forces are entrenched, and they now appear – as shown in this weekend’s competing schedules – to be arrayed for certain confrontation.

It was against this backdrop that Awka Times reporters and photographers fanned out to cover the events of this precarious day. We gave it the full treatment. And so, in the coming days, we will present accounts of the occurrences, complete with professional photography and documentary videography. It was important to capture the details of this moment in Awka contemporary history.

Stay tuned.

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